… interviewed UD in a hotel room during a New York City MLA convention; they then invited her to spend three days in LA – she gave a paper, walked around the cool campus, got taken out to cool LA restaurants, and left the city feeling extremely good about USC.
She was thrilled to get a job offer a few days later, but ultimately decided she was more of an east coaster.
UD recalled all of this when reading an opinion piece by Braudy about the resignation of USC’s benighted president, Max Nikias. He left under the impossible pressure of multiple very big sex and drug scandals, and he really had to leave. But Leo makes the important point that despite the awful scandals on his watch, Nikias did a huge amount of good for the school.
When Nikias became provost in 2005, one of his first acts was to institute Visions and Voices, an arts and humanities program that is free to all students, bringing writers, actors, dancers and other prominent artists to campus to create a vibrant nighttime activity rather than the commuter wasteland that had existed before.
… More than 100 endowed faculty chairs and 20 new research centers were established under Nikias’ leadership and with the funds he raised. The number of residential colleges, where students can fruitfully interact with faculty, graduate students and each other, increased from one to 15. Older campus buildings were renovated and new ones added, including the Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, the Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience, and the Iovine and Young Academy for Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation. The campus itself has been beautified with more than a thousand new trees as well as numerous places for students and faculty to sit, have coffee and converse.
And if you are in search of an ethical as well as a bricks-and-mortar legacy, consider his enormous expansion of the diversity of USC’s community of scholars, and especially his strong support of first-generation students, students from foster families and DACA students.
The USC student body now is drawn from all 50 states and 129 countries. Sixteen percent of the incoming freshman class will be the first in their families to attend college; about a quarter are underrepresented minorities. Two-thirds of all USC students receive financial aid, which has increased almost 80% under Nikias, from $187 million to $325 million — the biggest financial aid pool in America. Very few “spoiled children” here.
Nor is USC any longer the University of Second Choice. The university is rated 15th nationally by the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education College Rankings, and USC this year had 63,000 freshman applications.